Dame Ethel Smyth Manuscripts

Scope and Content

Autograph scores, with instrumental parts in some cases, of three early chamber works (String trio in D major, Piano trio in D minor, and String quartet in C minor) dating from Dame Ethel Smyth's Leipzig student period. Only one of these pieceshas been published.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) was one of the more notable figures in English musical life during the earlier part of the twentieth century; as well as being probably the first Englishwoman to achieve fame as a composer, she wrote severalautobiographical books and was a supporter of the Women's Suffrage Movement (for whom she composed the March of the Women). Her wish to follow a musical career met with considerable family opposition, but she overcame this and began her full-timemusical training by enrolling as a student at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1877. Soon afterwards she chose instead to take private tuition from Heinrich von Herzogenberg, and she spent much of her time on the continent during the following decade orso. Some of her early chamber music was publicly performed in Germany around this time, and her works began to be played in this country from 1890 onwards. Her first major English success came with the performance of the Mass in D at the Albert Hallin January, 1893, and she went on to compose several operas and choral works as well as smaller pieces. She received the honorary degree of DMus. from Durham University in 1910, and was created DBE in 1922.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Presented from the composer's estate.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available at online catalogue

Separated Material

Many of Ethel Smyth's autograph manuscripts are now in the British Library (see BL Add. MSS. 45934-45950, 46857-46863 and 49196).

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Collis, L., Impetuous heart: the story of Ethel Smyth , (London, 1984).  Dale, Kathleen: Ethel Smyth's prentice work , Music and Letters 30 (1949), 329-336.  St. John, Christopher (pseudonym, i.e. C. Marshall): Ethel Smyth, a biography , (London, 1959). Smyth, Ethel, String trio in D major for violin, viola and 'cello, ed. B. Marquardt, 2008 (Furore Edition 10042, ISMN: M-50182-042-9) [an edition of SMY 1].